1896 Birthday of Ira Gershwin (1896–1983), one of Broadway's most sterling lyricists, mainly in collaboration with his brother George Gershwin. Ira's musicals include Porgy and Bess; Of Thee I Sing; Lady, Be Good; Funny Face; Oh, Kay!, Girl Crazy, Lady in the Dark; and in adaptations after his death, My One and Only, Crazy for You, Never Gonna Dance, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.
1916 For Her Soldier Boy, Rida Johnson Young adapts her book to Emmerich Kalman's score, with additional music by Sigmund Romberg. The tale of a soldier returning from war opens at the Astor Theatre. It runs for 198 performances.
1939 What dreams does a nightclub men's room attendant dream? If that attendant is Bert Lahr, he's dreaming he's Louis XV and this must be Du Barry Was a Lady. Ethel Merman co-stars. Cole Porter supplies the music and lyrics to the book written by B.G. DeSylva and Herbert Fields.
1944 The timely A Bell for Adano rings in at the Cort Theatre. Fredric March stars as an American officer trying to help the defeated Italians rebuild their lives. Paul Osborn adapts John Hersey's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
1972 Jennie Linden is My Fat Friend, at London's Globe Theatre. The Charles Laurence play continues right through to the following season.
1991 It is announced today that the Nederlanders have decided to sell the gorgeous Mark Hellinger Theatre to the Times Square Church, as it remains to this day. The Hellinger was the theatre where Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison starred in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady in 1956.
2001 Less than three months after the 9/11 attacks, the downtown Flea Theater opens a new play about a fire chief trying to compose eulogies for his dead men. Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray star. The Guys becomes a long-running hit, and is adapted for film.
2001 A little-heralded in-development new musical called Hairspray begins open casting calls in—where else?—Baltimore. It goes on to win the 2003 Tony Award as Best Musical.
2002 The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization nixes a planned "singalong" performance of The Sound of Music at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. The theatre reportedly never asked permission to reproduce the copyrighted lyrics for the sold-out audience. A popular singalong version of the film version had the lyrics on the screen.
2009 Playwright David Mamet confronts the issue of racial prejudice in America with his drama Race, which opens on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington, and Richard Thomas star in the play about a law firm with one white partner and one black partner who take the case of a white man charged with a sex crime against a black woman.
2011 The East Village stage of New York Theatre Workshop takes the form of a Dublin pub—complete with booze bottles, smoky mirrors, and sepia-glowing incandescent bulbs—for the Manhattan premiere of the Irish-pop and folk-infused musical Once, based on the hit indie film. Featuring the music of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and starring Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, the production transfers to Broadway the following year, and wins the Tony Award for Best Musical.
2012 A revival of Golden Boy, Clifford Odets' 1937 drama about a young musician who takes a gamble on his own artistic dreams when he enters the boxing ring, opens at the Belasco Theatre. Directed by Bartlett Sher, it stars Seth Numrich in the central role of Joe Bonaparte.
2015 School of Rock – The Musical, the first new Andrew Lloyd Webber show to open on Broadway in a decade, opens at the Winter Garden Theatre, where his Cats ran for nearly 18 years. The musical is based on the 2003 film about a down-and-out rock guitarist who gets a job as a substitute teacher. Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess star.
More of Today's Birthdays: E. H. Sothern 1859. Lynn Fontanne 1887. Herman Shumlin 1898. Joseph Buloff 1900. Agnes Moorehead 1900. Wally Cox 1924. Bobby Van 1928. James Naughton 1945. Tom Hulce 1953. Jack Thorne 1978.
Watch highlights from Once on Broadway: